Resources and Guides

How to Choose Summer Camps for Special Needs Children

Summer is just around the corner and it is time to start thinking about activities for your kiddos. Camp is always a fun option. Children can explore different interests, hone a specific skill or just simply have some good, old-fashioned fun. When we have little ones with special needs, we are often a little hesitant to select a camp because we may not find an option that fits their unique needs. I’ve had some wonderful success in this area and want to share a few tips to help you make the right choice.

  1. Start now! The early bird catches the worm. Many of the well-known camps will fill up pretty early and you need to get your options ready so that you can respond quickly once registration opens up.

  1. Determine the type of camp where your child will thrive. The options can range from an inclusion or mainstream camp, special needs camp that caters to your child’s specific need or a general special needs camp that includes children with diverse special needs. It’s important to select what works best for your child.

  1. Ask other parents or caregivers. This is where I’ve found some of the best opportunities for Catherine. One year she attended a half-day camp for a week sponsored by our local Down syndrome Guild. We reconnected with a family and found a great therapist. She had a great time.

  1. Ask your providers. Many times I have found resources through Catherine’s therapy center where they post community events and camp round ups. The center hosts a Member Advisory Group with access to community resources. This year we found so many opportunities.

  1. Check with your local school or church. For the past couple of years, Catherine attended camp at her school, which was familiar and relaxing for her. This summer, the school is adding a new experience for Catherine to grow in the science, technology, reading, art and music in addition to reading and math. I am so excited about this opportunity for her. In addition, one of the churches sponsors a Vacation Bible School with staff in place to support special needs families. This is another consideration for us for this summer.

  1. Try an inclusion or mainstream camp. Catherine will spend a couple of weeks with a group of children at a camp where she will be one of a few with special needs. We are fortunate to have a place where the staff has known Catherine for several years and they always look forward to seeing her. She goes into this environment and can keep pace with other children; she acquires life skills that will serve her well for the road ahead.

  1. Plan down time. Try to have a few lazy days this summer where your kids just get to hang out with you. Visit the park, swim, plant a garden or try a new recipe. Last summer we spent some days at home. Catherine lounged around on the back porch and napped for a couple of hours each day.

  1. Check your local library for activities. Participating in a summer reading program is a great way for children to spend the summer. The library also offers craft and reading hour for children of all ages.

Summer camps are such a wonderful opportunity for children to expand their horizons, build their independence and grow in new areas. Catherine looks forward to learning new things. I am sure there is a camp out there to meet your child’s needs. If you have any summer activity tips, please let us know! I am happy to share them.


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